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Published on April 16, 2024
Washington County Celebrates Unsung Heroes During National Public Safety Telecommunicators WeekSource: Washington County, Minnesota

Washington County is lauding those on the front lines of emergency response who you never see but always hear – the public safety telecommunicators. This week marks National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, a period dedicated to those who man the phones and radio channels during crises, a move supported by the Washington County Board of Commissioners since their April 9 meeting.

When you dial for help, these are the unseen voices that echo back, promising aid is en route. Handling nearly 200,000 calls last year, the county's 27-strong team boasts a 99% answer rate within 15 seconds. Speaking with Washington County, Sheriff Dan Starry said, "Our public safety telecommunicators are truly the heroes behind the scenes and the single vital link for our law enforcement, firefighters, and paramedics in Washington County."

While their recognition spans merely a week, the continued efforts of these telecommunicators ripple through our community daily. Darlene Pankonie, former telecommunicator turned division manager for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office’s Emergency Communications Response Center, told Washington County, "Public safety communicators save lives." She recalls, with a sense of pride that is palpable, the importance of an empathetic and compassionate response, especially when it's someone's worst day.

In what has become a statewide nod of respect, Governor Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Transportation have heaped honor upon Minnesota's telecommunicators. The I-35W bridge, a backbone of Minneapolis, is set to bask in a golden glow on April 15, symbolizing the gold-standard service these communication warriors provide around the clock.